Thursday, December 8, 2011
YOUNG ADULT (2011)
Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) ghost writes a popular series of young adult novels about the trials and tribulations of a popular high school girl with whom she relates completely. When she receives the birth announcement of her former beau’s child, she becomes obsessed with returning to her hometown of Mercury, Minnesota, to win Buddy (Patrick Wilson) back. So Mavis packs her car and leaves the city to reclaim a youth she never really abandoned. At the local watering hole she runs into Matt (Patton Oswalt), a geeky former classmate best known as the kid beaten up and crippled because he was mistakenly thought to be gay. He attempts to dissuade her from her sociopathic pursuit of Buddy, but Mavis ignores him. However, she comes to rely on him as a sounding board and to appreciate his home distillery. Buddy either misreads Mavis’ insinuations or decides they are innocuous and invites her home to meet wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser) and baby. Mavis, in turn, projects her unhappiness onto Buddy and pursues him insidiously to rescue him from his miserable life. Writer Diablo Cody reteams with her JUNO director Jason Reitman, and their collaboration has clearly matured. Here Cody’s dialogue sounds less mannered, and her characters feel like real people, albeit not necessarily ones with whom we’d want to spend quality time. Reitman captures the look and feel of suburban Minnesota and succeeds in making even remote and guarded characters approachable if not wholly accessible. And the performances here are first rate. Theron allows Mavis to be funny, delusional and mean, but never sentimental. Wilson makes Buddy opaque enough so that anything can be read into his inscrutable features. Oswalt, however, nearly steals the movie from Theron, masking his emotional wounds behind glib sarcasm. Cody and Reitman struggle to find a satisfying ending, but, since their subject is a woman who refuses to change, perhaps they should be forgiven. This bracing comedy about an unwillingness to confront uncomfortable truths may be the most socially relevant movie of the year.